English Faculty Member Works on Set of Documentary Film

English Faculty Member Works on Set of Documentary Film

Over fall break, English Professor Tim Bintrim served as a Production Assistant for a forthcoming documentary film titled “This Collapse of All Things.”

The film will explore the life and death of Pittsburgh-born artist Frederick A. Demmler. It is being produced by Starflower Films in Maine and directed by filmmaker Charles Kaufmann.

Bintrim published an essay about the artist, describing Demmler as the “partial prototype for the character Tom Outland in Willa Cather’s 1920 novel “The Professor’s House.”

Kaufmann discovered Bintrim’s article in “Cather Studies VII” and reached out to ask him if he would participate in the film project.

Bintrim has researched and written extensively on the life and career of American novelist Willa Cather.

“I was asked to be a production assistant because I knew the story of Demmler and (Lucien) Price,” said Bintrim.

Price was a popular author in the first half of the twentieth century who also wrote under the name of Seymour Deming.

While on the film set in Pittsburgh, Bintrim met with Demmler’s niece, Dorli Demmler, who has written about Demmler’s paintings.

“Dorli’s work shows how important undergrad research can be,” said Bintrim. “The film couldn’t have been made without her foundational research.”

Bintrim said he acted as Kaufmann’s “spare brain” on the film set, “filling in the gaps” whenever Kaufmann was working to complete interviews.

The Cather scholar said his favorite part about working on the film was meeting fellow researchers from Toronto, Alaska, Maine and San Francisco who also participated in the project.

Bintrim also enjoyed examining Dorli Demmler approximately 30 postcard-sized sketches from Frederick Demmler’s sketchbooks.

“These postcards had only been shared with the family,” said Bintrim. “They are remarkable images of farmscapes and people.

“In Writing 102, I often have students do visual analyses of images from history. So hearing the directors analyze Fred’s portraits of bank presidents and anonymous Pittsburghers was neat.”

Bintrim and the rest of the crew traveled around 500 miles in just five days, filming scenes in Pittsburgh, New Castle and Sewickley.

“Seeing how much research Charles Kauffman has accomplished – much of it through his Facebook site on Demmler – was impressive,” said Bintrim.

“It changed my view of Facebook as a tool for scholars networking.”

The film is expected to be in production for roughly another year.